Rainbow Baby — Grieving A Loss While Celebrating New Life
A rainbow baby is a name coined for a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death. The name “rainbow baby” comes from the idea of a rainbow appearing in the sky after a storm, or after a dark and turbulent time.
I’ve never lost a baby. I can’t begin to imagine the pain involved in losing a tiny life that’s been created out of love–a life that carried hopes and dreams for the future. I know many women who have lost a baby or a pregnancy. In fact, 15-20% of all pregnancies in the United States end in a miscarriage before the 20th week of pregnancy. A stillbirth affects 1 in 100 pregnancies in the U.S. each year, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the third leading cause of infant mortality in our country.
The Fear, Guilt, And Excitement Of A Rainbow Pregnancy
There can be gut-wrenching guilt tied to these traumatic losses. Many women wonder if the loss is somehow their fault. Did they worry too much, eat enough nutritious food, forget to take their prenatal vitamins, or overdo it? As mothers, women have always been burdened with insidious guilt that begins as soon as the pregnancy test indicates positive.
Envision losing a baby only to become pregnant shortly thereafter. It’s easy to believe we should be thrilled with our new “miracle”, but it’s not that simple. A woman’s emotions can be wrought with confusion. She may feel conflicted and wonder, “How can I feel joy when I should still be mourning the loss of my child?” She may be scared and anxious. “If I’ve lost one baby, I could lose another.” For many women, it can be difficult to fully enjoy the new pregnancy until the delivery of a healthy baby, and this may be difficult for her friends and family to understand.
Seeking Support When You’re Struggling
It’s important to seek support:
Coping With Mixed Emotions
A woman needs to know that losing a pregnancy is as devastating as any other loss. Experiencing a miscarriage can be especially isolating. There is usually no funeral and little acknowledgment from friends and family that a difficult loss has occurred. Women who have experienced a perinatal loss may experience stress, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A new pregnancy can add complexity to these emotions. It is important to ask loved ones for patience and understanding, and there is no shame in seeking support from doctors or counselors.
Suggested Read: Grieving A Miscarriage
Find a Support Group
Sometimes, the best support comes from those who have walked in our shoes. There are beautiful stories online of women who have given birth to “rainbow babies” after suffering a loss. Support can also be found by joining social media groups or other online groups. Part of taking care of ourselves is acknowledging that we are struggling emotionally whether others understand that struggle or not.
“A mother is not defined by the number of children you can see, but by the love she holds in her heart.” – Franchesca Cox
Honor Your Experience
Joy mixed with sorrow can feel like we’re teetering on a balance beam, unsure of which way we could fall off. It’s okay to grieve; it’s okay to be self-compassionate; and it’s okay to take extra-special care of yourself while you wait for your rainbow baby to arrive.
Suggested Read: 10 Messages Of Hope